School is Open: Signs Parents Should Look for in Kids That Indicate Trouble May Be Brewing

I recently wrote about the emotional fallout of returning to school, including the fact that reduced time schedules for in-person instruction and smaller classes which may not include best friends may mean that being back in school may not be as satisfying as kids would like. Hybrid models which involve some remote instruction may force kids and parents to revisit some of the challenges faced in the spring.

              Now is the time for parents to be vigilant for signs of emotional upset, particularly depression and anxiety. This is all the more important as covid continues to restrict our lives in many ways.

              While children may manifest signs of depression and anxiety in different ways depending on their age and temperament, here are the classic signs that parents should watch for in their kids (and themselves).

       Depression is typically characterized by:

  •  Low mood (i.e. sadness) more often than not, sometimes presenting as irritability or anger;
  • Socially withdrawn, lack of interest in peers or in activities formerly of interest
  • Changes in appetite — either increased or decreased
  • Changes in sleep — sleeplessness or excessive sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Tiredness, low energy, lack of motivation
  • Negative thinking

In severe depression, thoughts become very negative, hopelessness may be observed, and in a worst  case scenario, suicidal ideation or behavior may ensue.

Anxiety.org (https://www.anxiety.org/causes-and-symptoms-of-anxiety-in-children) lists the following signs of anxiousness in kids:

  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Inattention, poor focus
  • Somatic symptoms like headaches or stomachaches
  • Avoidance
  • Tantrums
  • Crying
  • Refusing to go to school
  • Meltdowns before school about clothing, hair, shoes, socks
  • Meltdowns after school about homework
  • Difficulties with transitions within school, and between school and an activity/sport
  • Difficulty settling down for bed
  • Having high expectations for school work, homework and sports performance

During covid, look for a lack of interest in online lessons and assignments.

Both anxiety and depression can share different signs and symptoms and both also may be comorbid (i.e. accompany each other). Consequently, if these signs appear and are marked by increased frequency, duration, and severity, a referral to a mental health professional will be important.

Parents, too, should watch for the above signs in themselves as they need to be healthy both for themselves and their kids.

Emotional Contagion in the Age of Covid

              While the news is dominated by concern about catching covid, there is another powerful contagion at work that has been propelling individuals to act in both constructive and destructive ways. Emotional contagion-the idea of “catching a feeling” from someone- is a phenomenon that occurs universally and on a daily basis. Individuals are constantly exchanging emotions in a reciprocal fashion and these transfers of feelings, which are often occurring invisibly,  nevertheless, have the power to influence our actions. Evidence for the nonverbal nature of emotional communication comes from observing a mother/infant dyad. Infants prior to acquiring language communicate their needs to mothers who will experience the feelings induced in them by their babies who need to be held, changed, fed, etc. and respond to meet those needs without an exchange of words.

              In our current world, emotions have been “high” regarding not only covid, but also racial injustice, social inequality, and the constant changes the pandemic has spawned in the world of work, and our social lives, necessitating a need to survive these forces and re-invent ourselves and our way of living. The powerful emotional communications emanating from the need to address longstanding inequities has led to constructive protests and actions as well as the destructive violence. The powerful nature of the group on its’ members has propelled individuals in both directions.

              Apart from the earth-shaking events that will change the way we live, individuals still struggle with tolerating emotions that are intolerable to them. Losing a job, being unable to see and touch relatives, and friends, and dealing with the numerous challenges to our emotional well being brought on by uncertainty induce in individuals’ feelings that can be overwhelming. While tolerating intolerable feelings is necessary during ordinary times, the need to navigate intolerable emotions during covid has upped the ante. Consequently, it is important to be constantly aware that we are subject to being contaminated by emotions that can propel our behavior in constructive and destructive ways. Being able to hold these feelings long enough to understand them and have them inform our decisions is paramount. The danger, however, is that intolerable feelings are often too hot to hold and like passing the hot potato, we rid ourselves of them by passing them off to someone else, even an innocent bystander. People are driving more aggressively these days and being aggressive in word and deed as a result of off-loading emotions they cannot digest. At the same time, others are performing divine acts, the best evidence of this are the medical professionals who “run into the fire” by attempting to save the lives of those stricken with the virus.

              Paying close attention to how we feel, where this feeling came from, and holding it long enough to remove any toxic elements is necessary in order to make constructive decisions, especially now where we are feeling powerless, frustrated, and impatient.

The Emotional Fallout of Schools Re-Opening: Considering The Mental Health Needs of All

As stakeholders debate the medical pros and cons of in-person vs. remote return to instruction, it is of equal importance to consider the mental health needs of all involved. Re-experiencing the emotional fallout from the virtual spring and the resumption of some type of schooling in the fall may be expected. Spring was more than difficult for many students and families for a variety of reasons while others did well. However, how are kids doing with the monumental changes covid has brought and continues to bring?

              Kids (and adults) have had to limit their human, in-person contacts with those who are important to them. It is likely this human yearning for contact has spawned many of the rule violations being reported. At the same time, many kids (and adults) are experiencing higher than usual degrees of anxiety and depression as the uncertainties about the virus and when it will be “over” remains unknown.

Moreover, even for those who choose the in-person option, things will not be the same. Small cohorts may not permit some to attend classes with their best friends and those used to moving between classes will likely be glued to one seat and one room. Lunch and special classes may not be the same, and in-person class time will be shortened. This will be another in the long line of disappointments kids will experience during covid. Socializing is an important part of the school experience and, for some children, who struggle with the academic challenges, it is the part of school that drives their motivation to attend.

Each change may be experienced as another loss and this breed sadness, frustration, anger, and, for some, depression. Consequently, it will be important to prep students for the return to in-person instruction. For those continuing on remote, they, too, need preparation to return to the less than satisfying format of online learning.

How about teachers? Many are feeling uneasy or even frightened to return despite assurances from their districts and individual schools. Why is this? No one can assure complete safety even when precautions are taken. Anyone who has ever worked in a school knows that it is common for parents to send kids to school who are not feeling well and give them a dose of motrin. This practice undermines faith in any precautions taken. Similarly, having parents complete a safety protocol even daily means that one would have to trust that the responses are honest. Even so, since children can be asymptomatic and can spread covid in the same doses as adults, there is no way to really know what a teacher will encounter each day. For parents, they may be thinking the same things-where have teachers been? Where have their kids been? Faculty and staff (as well as parents and students) in high risk groups have a higher degree of anxiousness as the stakes are higher.

How about parents? The usual joy parents experience at the end of summer as a result of the return of their children to school will be absent this year. Remote or hybrid instruction will significantly limit in-school time and for parents of younger children or those who needs require parental oversight, a return to virtual instruction may mean a re-traumatization of that which was experienced in the spring. Parents are not only worried about the health of their students and themselves, but also if they will be able to balance their job and supporting their child at the same time.

All of the above point toward a need to put resources into supporting the mental health needs of staff, students, and families. Having the opportunity to process anxieties related to covid and the limitations in academic, social, and economic life is crucial. If it is not possible to wish away these worries, then effort must be made to change how we think about them. Questions already being posed include:  When this will all end? How will I perform well enough with remote learning when I do not do well in this format? Will I be losing a year of my education? Will there be any sports this year? A prom? A class trip?

Schools have to gear up to help students and staff navigate what is looking like a difficult beginning of the school year. School counselors and psychologists will need to direct their efforts to keeping everyone “flying”. If necessary, additional help should be sought from outside professionals to support each stakeholder group. The possibility of a sudden school closure due to diagnosed cases should be part of the planning process as well as the return to school after a closure.

Neuropsychological Evaluation During Covid: How to Conduct a Meaningful and Valid Remote Assessment

 

              In a recent blog entitled, “To Test or Not to Test: The Pros and Cons of Remote and in-Person Testing During Covid,” (https://drkorner.wordpress.com/2020/07/08/to-test-or-not-to-test-the-pros-and-cons-of-remote-and-in-person-testing-during-covid/) I described the limitations of using instruments not standardized for virtual use:

“With regard to remote testing, although testing platforms have been opened by the publishing companies, the aggregation of guidance does not support it as it involves significant departures from the way the instruments were standardized. These considerations are in addition to issues relating to having adequate and stable technological resources, being unable to control environmental conditions in students’ homes, using parents or other adults as co-administrators or monitors, not having adequately trained professionals in telehealth assessment, safeguarding the security of testing materials, and more. The research that exists supporting tele-assessment as equivalent to in-person testing is, as one expert states, in its’ “nascent” stages.”

However, where current data are needed to determine academic program, accommodations, and/or interventions, guidance from the InterOrganizational Practice Committee (IOPC) for Teleneuropsychology (TeleNP) in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic (https://iopc.online/teleneuropsychology-guidelines) offers an alternative route:

“It is particularly important to recognize that testing is only one component in the broader neuropsychological assessment process. While testing may be limited via telehealth, the other components of the assessment process including the differential diagnostic interview, collateral interviews, and medical records review continue to be readily available. In addition to Tele-NP testing, practitioners can continue to offer TeleNP intake assessments resulting in actionable treatment plans as well as resources to support patients and families. Neuropsychologists can additionally offer consultations for individuals previously seen, and provide support to patients and families who are struggling to cope with the current situation in the context of their developmental or acquired cognitive, emotional or behavioral limitations. Such consultations might include assisting families who are homeschooling children with learning and developmental disabilities….”

That is, private practitioners and child study team professionals can utilize their expertise in neuropsychologically based assessment to add valuable information to help support students, parents, and teachers now rather than waiting for the end of covid when traditional in-person assessment will again become available. Seasoned evaluators can apply what they know in order to formulate and assess diagnostic questions about presenting academic and behavioral issues and use the clinical interview to understand reports from student, parents, teachers, or other collaterals and weave these pieces of data into a clinical picture that can yield actionable findings. An extension of the clinical interview, valid and reliable scales which can easily be administered either live during the interview or remotely, can add to the clinical profile. For example, administering the Brown ADD scale (or the newest executive function version of it) during an interview, can lead evaluators to query students, parents, or teachers so they can elaborate on positive findings from specific items. Use of other existing data, like curriculum-based measures, previous in-person testing (i.e. standardized and in-class), and report cards, can yield valuable data.

Similarly, consultations usually conducted by Response to Intervention (RTI) teams at schools as part of their Multi-Tiered Support System can still be conducted remotely by gathering information from all stakeholders involved with a student and interventions can be crafted which can be monitored and tweaked as needed.

In these ways, child study teams and private practitioners do not need to choose between utilizing instruments standardized for in-person use online with all of the attendant limitations (especially ethical and legal) or waiting to conduct assessments in-person at some later date. Paradoxically, the covid imposed limitations on standard testing practices encourages child study teams and private practitioners to expand their definition of assessment and reach into their professional toolkits to go beyond sole reliance on formal testing and the scores that result. Honing their skills in utilizing the many other sources of data remotely can result in a new avenue of assessment even after covid that includes both remote evaluation methods and a freedom from being tied to test scores while relying more instead of other clinical assessment tools and clinical know-how.

 

The Importance of Attending to and Enhancing Relationships Between Stakeholders During School Re-Opening: Saying and Hearing Everything

 

The basic psychological principles of saying everything, willingness to listen to everything, joining, and sustaining/building relationships apply even more than usual during the covid period.  With so much uncertainty, Margaret Wheatley (2004) points toward the possibility “…to prepare for the future without knowing what it will be. The primary way to prepare for the unknown is to attend to the quality of our relationships, to how well we know and trust one another (Casel.org).”

The above is not trite nor is it a “touchy/feely” statement. In order to navigate the complexities, unknowns, and pitfalls of returning to school, the first step is to take a reality check on the status of our relationships with each other. Why is this important? Without strong, trusting relationships, how can we engage in dialogues with one another that are meaningful and give us a sense of safety and security?    We begin by initiating with stakeholders-faculty, teachers, parents, community leaders-a process of listening to what each has to see about their experiences thus far with virtual learning during covid and what they would like to see going forward. Through surveys or focus groups, the following questions should be posed:

“– What has your experience been like since school has been closed?

– What is on your mind as you think about next school year?

-What are your biggest hopes or worries?

– What has our school done well during the past months, and what could we have done better?

– How might you like to contribute as we prepare to transition to a new school year?

– What will help you learn this upcoming year?

– What can we do to make school feel even more like a community that cares for you? (Casel.org).”

 

Listening to the responses to the above helps us to understand what people are feeling and thinking, and joining with them allows us to be accurately emotional responsive to their needs, a state that imparts a feeling of being heard and cared for. Without communicating our understanding and acceptance of stakeholder’s personal experiences, there is no basis for them to engage with us in the long process of getting back to some degree of normalcy. Similarly, without this kind of understanding and acceptance, we have no leverage in asking for their cooperation and collaboration in making the hard choices ahead because they will not feel heard or trust in our willingness to take care of them along the way. Including people in this way give them a feeling that they are dealing with entities that have their best interests in mind.

 

Building on this means establishing or reaffirming an openness to an ongoing relationship characterized by a reciprocal interchange of thoughts and feelings without fear of retribution or reprisal if opposing or different ideas were to be expressed. This, too, requires trust. Meetings where lip service only is given to honestly expressing thoughts or feelings are received as ingenuine and push honest communication under the rug.

 

Moreover, forums for ongoing and honest discussion between stakeholders need to be established and sustained as we are not out of the woods with covid. We are going to need to be engaging with one another to navigate our way through the potential twists and turns, and doing so in a way that engenders trust. These will be particularly important when there are disagreements about how to proceed. For example, stakeholders wanting in-person instruction may be out of sync with those who have to provide it. Here is where psycho-education, another basic principle, comes into play. Straight, accurate, and honest information needs to be obtained and disseminated about things like infection rates in the community and their impact on re-opening. While governmental and legal obligations may need to be followed, these may, too, be out of sync with how stakeholders are feeling. Compliance, but not cooperation, may be the result.

 

To truly live the principle of “we are all in this together,” dialogues between stakeholders must be established and sustained so the feeling of togetherness can be actualized.   That is, we need, more than ever, to rely on our trusted relationships as we talk our way through the pandemic. This can be done by creating working groups that contain stakeholders from across the spectrum who meet regularly and discuss how re-opening plans are working, to tweak them when they need adjusting, and to proactively anticipate problems and issues that may arise and create solutions that can be implemented as needed. Honest, open discussion must be encouraged otherwise unspoken feelings of dissent will cause difficulties. Without permission to “say everything,” dissenting feelings and points of views will go underground and often take the form of acting out, failure to cooperate, half-hearted implementation of plans, etc. While we do not always need to agree, we need to be heard, and those in decision-making positions must explain their actions, particularly if they are unpopular.

Worried About Your Student’s Progress During Remote Learning? Benchmarking and Progress Monitoring Can Help

The sudden school closures this past spring catapulted school districts into the realm of remote instruction with little preparation. Virtual learning was the safest way to attend classes; however, some students did not attend regularly or at all and task completion was a challenge as parents assumed the herculean task of working from home and trying to support their children with their education online. As a result, many parents are wondering how much (or if) their child has learned in the first round of remote schooling, and look forward to the fall with continued trepidation even with some form of combined in-person and online instruction.

Worry with no data just breeds more anxiety, making the importance of obtaining a baseline of where each child’s learning stands and then monitoring the progress going forward paramount. Standardized tests that were developed to be administered online can provide the hard data parents, teachers, and tutors are seeking to know where each student ranks in a representative sample of same grade peers. The findings of these assessments will give an accurate picture of whether students are functioning on grade level and what areas of reading and math require more attention.

As schools attempt to resume some in-person instruction, child study teams may begin to conduct testing. However, most districts are backlogged with testing not conducted or completed and these teams provide testing primarily for students with or suspected of having special needs. For the majority of students, response to intervention teams (RTI) may also become backed up as students return and many RTI teams may not do testing.

Parents seeking some concrete information about their student can obtain this privately without further delay and then use the findings to help their child stay afloat for the remainder of the social distancing era. Parents, teachers, and tutors can target areas of concern now instead of taking the chance of losing another part of an academic year.

To Test or Not to Test: The Pros and Cons of Remote and in-Person Testing During Covid

Like many other aspects of life during covid, the decision about whether to test, and, if so, whether to test remotely or in-person has raised many issues to consider. The following is a brief compilation/summary of these issues as discussed in the sources contained at the end of this narrative.

With regard to remote testing, although testing platforms have been opened by the publishing companies, the aggregation of guidance does not support it as it involves significant departures from the way the instruments were standardized. These considerations are in addition to issues relating to having adequate and stable technological resources, being unable to control environmental conditions in students’ homes, using parents or other adults as co-administrators or monitors, not having adequately trained professionals in telehealth assessment, safeguarding the security of testing materials, and more. The research that exists supporting tele-assessment as equivalent to in-person testing is, as one expert states, in its’ “nascent” stages.

While in-person testing diminishes some of these concerns, it presents different challenges. The requirements by regulatory agencies to safeguard the health of evaluators, students, and their families via the use of PPE (i.e. masks, face shields, plastic dividers)  and social distancing, the latter hard to do when testing, present unknown variables as to how these will influence the reliability and validity of the evaluation and the social emotional health of students who may experience discomfort to performing with these safety adaptations. Again, the instruments were not standardized with covid precautions in mind.

Taken together, the principle of informed consent must be extended to these special situations such that parents and other consumers of the results of remote and in-person evaluations must be made aware of the conditions under which testing was conducted and how they may influence the findings. One important consideration is whether the consumers of the test reports will be unhappy with the results and decide not to accept them given all of the above limitations with respect to insuring reliability and validity. Certainly, all of these considerations need to be discussed beforehand so that all stakeholders are informed and agree to going forward with the testing. In this regard, the Farmer et al. article about the dangers of testing with good intentions should be reviewed.

All of the guidance also points to the importance of whether testing needs to be conducted at all at this point of time or whether other information (i.e. functional data; previous testing; curriculum-based assessment) may be used to make determinations about eligibility for services or placement so that students are not denied their rights to appropriate supports. Where testing may be done without compromising the results as in the use of survey or online inventories, these are appropriate to utilize to gather needed data.

The original sources below should be reviewed carefully in making decisions about testing during the pandemic.

 

InterOrganizational Practice Committee Recommendations/Guidance for Teleneuropsychology (TeleNP) in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic (https://iopc.squarespace.com/hygiene-strategies),

Ryan L. Farmer,1 Ryan J. McGill,2 Stefan C. Dombrowski,3 Nicholas F. Benson,4 Stephanie Smith-Kellen,1 Adam B. Lockwood,5 Steven Powell,1 Christina Pynn,1 and Terry A. Stinnett (2020). Conducting Psychoeducational Assessments During the COVID-19 Crisis: the Danger of Good Intentions. Contemp Sch Psychol. Jun 2 : 1–6.

Hiramoto, J. (2020). Mandated special education assessments during the COVID-19 shutdown (California Association of School Psychologists position paper). Retrieved from http://www.casponline.org

Luxton, D.D., Pruitt, L.D., and Osenbach, E. (2014).  Best Practices for Remote Psychological Assessment via Telehealth Technologies. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, Vol. 45, No. 1, 27–35;

American Psychological Association:

 https://www.apaservices.org/practice/clinic/covid-19-neuropsychological-psychological-testing, (https://www.apaservices.org/practice/reimbursement/health-codes/testing/psychological-telehealth),

New Jersey Association of School Psychologists:

(http://www.njasp.org/), including the Summer 2020 newsletter detailing testing concerns when conducting in-person assessments using covid adaptations.

 

How to Talk with Kids about Racism and Violence: A Starting Point

 

Being a parent these days is becoming even more challenging than ever before. First, we have had to navigate the pandemic with our kids, including the uncertainty and the resultant feelings of anxiety and lack of control. In the past week, parents and kids have been exposed repeatedly to scenes of an African American man, George Floyd, being subjected to police actions that contributed to his death, followed by more imagery of protests, some turning violent, across the country. How can parents make sense of these events for themselves and their children?

Although these times and events are extraordinary and cumulative, talking with kids about traumatic situations follow some basic principles that may become lost in the fog of the past weeks news cycle.

First, parents have to take their own emotional temperature to see how they are feeling. This is especially important because kids respond most to the emotional communications that accompany the explanations we offer. Remember, it is the music that counts more than the lyrics!

Second, minimize repeated exposure to violent media content. The events of the past week are available 24/7 and while it is essential for kids and parents to talk, there may be a tendency for kids (and even adults) to expose themselves to repeated images as a way of trying to digest and cope with the traumatic events of the past week. Find a source you can trust to get the news, and when children watch, view the news with them and discuss what they are seeing.

Third, when talking with your children, start with these general principles:

  • Ask what they know about George Floyd’s death and the protests. Children have access to information in many ways and assume they have some information. This will help you to share only what they need to know and what inaccurate information or perceptions to correct and discuss.
  • Answer questions simply and be prepared to answer the same questions more than once. Adjust your explanations depending on the age and developmental level of your child. Remember that repeating questions is a way children signal that they continue to have concerns.
  • Do not get put off by questions or demands that seem inappropriate.
  • Assure children (particularly young children) that you are doing everything you can to keep them safe. Remember that children view events through their own developmental lenses and want to know basic things like: are you safe? Will I be safe?
  • Reinforce basic routines because consistency breeds a feeling of safety and control.
  • Be honest. If you do not know the answer to a question, say so and offer to try to find the answer.

Fourth, consider the following suggestions when discussing racism and violence.

 

 

Being a Good Enough Parent In the Age of Covid-19

Back in 2011, I wrote a blog entitled, “Becoming A Good Enough Parent,” and just recently, I gave a webinar about the importance of being “good enough” for parents struggling to navigate the current crisis, an idea mentioned in a Times opinion piece (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/24/opinion/coronavirus-parents-work-from-home.html?searchResultPosition=1.)

The concept of “good enough,” has even more import these days as parents berate themselves and engage in self-criticism for a myriad of perceived faults including, the failure to: instruct their kids properly in this time of remote education; find creative ways to occupy their children; juggle work and home life; etc.

Using the metaphor of parents needing to put the oxygen mask over their faces first on a plane when the cabin depressurizes as they will be unable to care for their children while unconscious, I want to share with parents that it is most important that they take  care of themselves and stop engaging in self-criticalness in this extraordinary time.

Bruno Bettelheim, in his book, “A Good Enough Parent,” stated that parents should avoid striving to be perfect parents, and, in turn, not expect to raise perfect children because perfection is “not within the grasp of ordinary human beings.” Especially during the covid period, trying to be perfect does much more harm than good and raises the bar to unreasonable heights where perceived shortcomings become magnified. In contrast, becoming a good enough parent first means to reject the goal of perfection, and, instead, recognize that good enough parenting really means that most of the time we  do our best to do well by them. In a parallel way, we do not berate kids when they complain about virtual education, and missing their friends, recognizing they, too, are trying to find their way. Being good enough parents means trying to understand our children’s perspective even when we do not agree to it because genuinely trying to understand how they think and feel goes a long way to making them feel you care and hear them, creating the atmospheric conditions for more cooperation from them.

Another important fact to remember for guilt ridden parents who berate themselves for not being the kind of parent they would like to be is that children are resilient, softening the expressed self-indictment of parents who feel that they are permanently damaging their children due to their own shortcomings. Being good enough will help kids weather this crazy period in a good enough way. This is because parents who feel good enough will likely be less anxious and communicate a confidence to kids who learn to be the people they will be via reflected appraisals, and parents who reflect calm instill the same in their children.

Equally important is to recognize that, paradoxically, there is a lot of good that can come out of this extraordinary time. That is, parents can model for kids patience, frustration tolerance, and the capacity to make lemonade out of lemons by creatively tweaking the disappointments kids (and parents) experience by being unable to go places, see people, celebrate important events, etc. These are extremely important character traits that can be practiced and developed as we try to come up with creative ways to manage what we have lost and create solutions that are, while not optimal, good enough until we can resume normal life.

Remote Instruction Fatigue: The New Epidemic

It has been approximately eight weeks since we were placed on stay at home status, requiring teachers, students, faculty, and practitioners of all kinds to pivot to provide instruction and services remotely. During this time, we have all learned more than we ever wanted to know about things like wifi strength, bandwith, headphones, zoom, google, and various other platforms that have sprung up to meet the needs of families and schools. At the same time, we have simultaneously marveled about how quickly we all made the change to virtual life while lamenting the fact that we have lost, at least temporarily, the option of actual in-person instruction and have had to tolerate weak wifi reception, dropped calls and sessions, interlopers hacking into meetings, and, a general sense of remote instruction fatigue (RIF).

RIF may be characterized by a preoccupation with: a feeling of anxiousness prior to a virtual instruction session; a concern about how many students are attending each meeting and/or completing assignments; following up with those students not in attendance or exhibiting poor task completion; a reluctance to press parents who themselves may be struggling on many fronts to enlist their aid with their student; parents and students expecting you to be available 24/7; and preparing an endless stream of assignments to accompany virtual instruction sessions.

While teaching is a vocation that normally requires boundless energy and time to perform the myriad tasks involved in delivering instruction on a daily basis, remote instruction adds a qualitatively different strain to educators, and by the end of the day, a different type of exhaustion has set in. Dealing with students who normally present with a lack of enthusiasm for school in the current virtual environment makes the task of keeping them centered and on point even more challenging.

Now, there are some “perks” to this virtual world. There are no long commutes to work, no lunches to make, and no dress codes to which to adhere. Having the time to explore the online world is another such “perk” as we have no other choice if we want to remain viable. Moreover, thinking out of the box, an important skill at any time, is more in demand these days as we must constantly create and re-create ourselves and how we work.

How about the inherent paradoxes of virtual instruction? While teachers and parents normally struggle with keeping students’ attention and off of the web, we now are faced with using the web as a lifeline. The competition with all of the myriad web-based distractions still exists and we must find ways to work around them. For example, joining with kids by having them teach us aspects of the web, how certain video games work, and, implicitly, signaling our interest in the virtual world can being us all closer and diminish conflicts about being online.

Yet, we are by now yearning for the in-person contact we all took for granted. Getting offline and doing something else is essential to prevent an increase in RIF. Little things like doing puzzles, playing board games, reading a book, exercising and many more activities take on new meaning.

Like anything else, new situations bring with them a period of adaptation. RIF may be a reaction to the sudden and intense changes in education and healthcare. The pendulum, however, will eventually swing back to the middle and online activity will take a new place in our daily lives-but, once this crisis ends, it will be counterbalanced by in-person life. Hang in-we are slowly getting there! Watch for signs of RIF and do something to deflect it.